Caponata

Caponata is an Italian ratatouille with very similar ingredients. Caponata can be served warm or at room temperature. In Italy it is often served as part of an antipasto platter or serve with crusty bread or crackers.

It makes a great appetizer for any type of entertaining!

2 cups cubed, peeled eggplant
1 tsp coarse salt
2 cups drained canned plum tomatoes, chopped (reserve the juice)
4 tbsps olive oil
1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/2 cup calamata olives
2 tbsp capers (optional)

1. Place the eggplant in a colander, sprinkle it with the coarse salt and let it drain for 1 hour.

2. Heat 2 tblsp of the oil in a large flame proof casserole or dutch oven. Pat the eggplant dry with paper towels, and add it to the casserole. Saute over medium heat until soft and lightly browned, 10 minutes.

3. Using a slotted spoon, remove the eggplant and set it aside. Add the remaining oil, then the onion, bell peppers and celery to the casserole. Saute over medium heat until the vegetables are softened 10 minutes. Return the eggplant to the casserole.

4. Add the tomatoes, pepper, oregano, basil, garlic, parsley, olives and capers. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, approx. 45 minutes. If the mixture starts sticking while cooking, add the reserved tomato juice in small amounts. Serve hot or at room temperature. Yield 4 cups.

Also delicious served in giant pre-cooked pasta sea shells. Mix into caponata mixture chopped sausage, place mixture in seashells and heat in oven. Serve with a fresh green salad for a main dish meal!